What is eBusiness?

Ask 10 people - What is eBusiness? and you'll get 10 different answers. Put simply, eBusiness is any way you use the Internet to manage your business or serve your customers. This then could be anything from finding and dealing with suppliers, promoting your services, managing your stock, to selling or offering post-sales support online - in short, potentially anything. eCommerce by contrast refers to one specific function of the business cycle - electronic selling. As such, eCommerce is just a single aspect of eBusiness.

Benefits of eBusiness

eBusiness can benefit your costs and efficiencies, marketing and competitiveness:

  1. Lower costs per transaction. Labour costs associated with administration can be slashed
  2. Reduced supply costs. More Internet based information affords firms a wider choice of suppliers and by extension, more competitive prices
  3. Publication and distribution fees fall. Publishing a brochure online enables a vast number of people to access it, while also allowing the company to update and then add to the contents easily
  4. The role of the middleman becomes less important as companies can sell direct to the customer

Competitiveness

  1. eBusiness offers a reliable, cost effective and pervasive means of doing business. Routine tasks are automated and customers, if they wish, can avail of a 24-hour sales service
  2. More players will enter the market as technology enables firms to penetrate overseas
  3. Companies need to be aware of market changes

Marketing

  1. It helps build brand awareness offering new avenues of promotion
  2. Customer loyalty deepens because web based purchasing affords customers the opportunity to communicate with the company
  3. Conversely, a web site also allows the firm to offer better service to consumers

eBusiness doesn't necessarily mean doing different things than you've done previously. It can, but its real power is in that it enables you to do the same things faster, better and often at lower cost. Perhaps most importantly of all, as well as giving you easier access to new partners, suppliers, markets and customers, eBusiness lets you get more value from them. You'll notice that the benefits range from those that directly impact your bottom-line and those less easy to quantify (intangible benefits). Don't underestimate the intangible benefits. It may not be possible to put them directly onto the balance sheet, but if they are helping you do better business or more business, that's exactly where they're going.

Possible barriers

So why, considering the potential benefits, do less than half of our smaller businesses have a website and only 10% sell their products and services online? There appears to be a certain fear factor about eBusiness that is holding many businesses back - and this applies to multinationals as well as small businesses. One thing for sure, there are as many myths about eBusiness as there has been hype, and these myths are worth exploding:

It's too complicated and too expensive - like most things, eBusiness can be complex and expensive, but it doesn't have to be so. Generally, you get what you pay for though and the trick is one of minimising the costs whilst making the most of the benefits. As eBusiness begins to work for you, you can progress at an appropriate pace - proving what works best for your business in affordable chunks. This in itself takes care of the complexity. Knowledge and planning count for a lot here - this is your business and it's worth doing the job well. Try to view costs alongside the benefits provided and keep in mind that your business may be eligible for a grant to cover part of the expense

Security is too much of an issue - security is one of the most often used reasons for not exploiting eBusiness and is one of the most misunderstood. Security certainly is an issue and so it should be - like managing any transaction, there is always an element of risk. Despite the negative hype, the risk is no greater than many other transactions you make each day and substantially lower than most (ever quote a credit card number over the phone or let a waiter disappear with it at the end of a meal?). Use a reputable eCommerce vendor and the risks are minimised, certainly to the degree where the benefits overshadow the issue significantly. Businesses face risks everyday and no more so than from competing businesses. Ignoring the opportunities offered by eBusiness because of a perfectly manageable risk is the bigger risk still. It's oxymoronic in risk management to place perceived risks ahead of real ones. The biggest risk you face currently is that your competitors get ahead of you in eBusiness.

Instead of running my business, I'll spend all day managing a website - possibly, possibly not. Here again, planning is key and a well designed and built website will give much more than it ever takes. The reality is that there are options here. You may wish to use a simple content management tool to update pages easily or buy a maintenance package, which will get your site updated for you by the professionals who built it. You could even wish to learn how to build pages and do the work yourself, but then you will have ended up managing a website. The best option for you will depend on what you want your website to achieve, what type of content you're dealing with and what customers will expect to see. Rest assured, unless you really want to be a full time webmaster, you don't have to be one.

My business and products just aren't right for eBusiness - why? You may sell products that research indicates don't sell online and then building an online store is certainly not part of an eBusiness strategy you need to worry about. But do your customers and potential customers ever use the Internet to gather information in support of their buying decisions? Do you offer services, which you know people would be interested in if they only knew about them? Is keeping your customers aware of your products and services becoming increasingly time consuming but as important as ever? Do you ever suffer because you are too small, too difficult to contact, too far away or too difficult to do business with? eBusiness is not just about selling, but about all aspects of your business. It won't solve all your ills, but it could make your business more focussed, faster and better targeted. The one option most businesses simply don't have today, is to ignore eBusiness.

No one looks at our website so that's money down the drain - if no-one is visiting, it's not eBusiness at fault - the problem lies elsewhere. The 'build it and they will come' approach to eBusiness simply doesn't work and consideration needs to be given to the marketing of your website as much as any product or service you offer.

The one thing that eBusiness can't replace - quality

There is nothing, eBusiness included, that can replace quality - particularly in the minds of consumers. Customers now have, thanks to the Internet, access to a whole world of information, which makes them better informed and as a consequence more discerning. They expect more for their money and although not all purchasing decisions are purely cost-based, quality of service is increasingly important. Consumers International recently carried out a survey, funded by the European Union and carried out by consumer organisations in 11 countries. 150 items from 17 countries were ordered, mostly from well-known companies. Some of the findings were:

  • One in 10 items never arrived
  • Two buyers, from the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, have waited over five months for refunds
  • More than half - 56% - of the products ordered arrived without receipts
  • 73% of traders failed to give crucial contract terms
  • Over 25% gave no address or telephone number
  • 24% were unclear about the total cost of the item that was ordered

You may think that these findings are rather extreme but they show how many businesses trading on line have overlooked the most fundamental rules of customer care. When a customer buys on-line they expect the same standard of service they would receive if buying over the counter. To develop good eBusiness solutions you must reproduce the experience of trading in the real world, while capitalising on the cost and time benefits derived from on-line trading. There is an element of trust in all business transactions and your website, the way it looks and operates and the resulting interaction with customers all have a part to play in building trust. This effort has to start at the basics, as it would in any business. Your location, the state of your premises, logo and brand, your people, post-sales support, and many other factors speak of you good or bad. eBusiness is little different. It is much more important to have a well designed, marketed and maintained website with a strong web address (URL), than to have a sprawling site built with little objective or understanding of your customer's needs. Would you let just anyone design your logo or choose your office space - probably not. By the same token, make sure the people giving you advice on eBusiness and building your website, have the skills and knowledge to do the job well.

Popcorn Web Design Ltd is well experienced in all aspects of eBusiness with a wealth of knowledge and proven solutions.